Memorial Day weekend tends to be one of the strongest frames for summer releases, given that many films often try to take advantage of the market, but usually just one gets the full advantage. In 2009 it was Night at the Museum 2 over Terminator Salvation. In 2011 it was The Hangover Part II over Kung Fu Panda 2. This year… well, suffice it to say it’s not Todd Phillips’ year. Another franchise has claimed superiority this weekend, and we may well be seeing the dawn of a whole new series for kids. So if ongoing film series’ are your thing, this weekend was definitely for you.
We’ll get to the indie franchise that critics can’t stop talking about soon enough, but another film expanding on the independent market came close to crossing over into the Top 10. Last weekend I theorized that Noah Baumbach’s Frances Ha may be the next indie film to catch on like wildfire with mainstream viewers. Given the film’s $11,800 per theater average in just 60 theaters, I’d say that has proven to be a reasonable bet. Also opening on the indie scene, Israel’s outstanding Foreign Oscar entry from last year, Fill the Void, pulled in a $26,400 per theater average from 3 venues. I saw the film back at New York Film Festival in September and was beguiled by Rama Burstein’s unprejudiced story of obstructed youth and Hadas Yaron’s observant performance. Both are reasons it deserves to be seen more than any of the megalomaniac mainstream films that came out this weekend.
Remember when Fast & Furious opened above $70 million in 2009 and we were all shaking our heads that the franchise would sadly continue on? It’s interesting how four years and two solid installments can change one’s mood. Indeed I’m biased, having been entertained by both Fast Five and Furious 6, but I can’t display much malice towards a franchise that causes no truly offensive harm. The latest installment has ensured that the decision to thrust forth into production on the 7th installment in time for a Summer 2014 release wasn’t a folly, taking in $120 million over a four-day period. That’s more than half the domestic gross of its predecessor, so it’s safe to say the auto-action odyssey will live on for at least one more installment.
How much more difficult would it have been for Blue Sky Animation’s latest to earn money if it was still titled Leaf Men? Though the title may indeed be the epitome of manipulative marketing, it’s paid off to some degree for 20th Century Fox, as Epic pulled in a solid $42.6 million over four days. Mind you, it still lags behind all of Blue Sky’s other openings, aside from Robots, but they still have nearly a whole month to dig into the kid-oriented market. The Croods was the most wholesome example of family entertainment since its release in March, and has maintained a position in the box office Top 10 for ten weeks now. Having no great competition for children’s affections makes the next four weeks an excellent opportunity for Epic. Until Monsters University lands. And then Despicable Me 2. And then Turbo. And then Planes. This summer really backloaded its animated features, didn’t it?
So the enthusiasm about the latest installment in Richard Linklater’s every-nine-years franchise isn’t quite the same as such for Hangover 3 or Fast & Furious 6, but it was hotly anticipated by those in New York and Los Angeles who could actually see it this weekend. Taking a $64,400 per theater average from 5 theaters, it still trails behind the indie openings of The Place Beyond the Pines and Spring Breakers, though both of those were starrier attractions than a Greek travelogue about a couple in their forties. The Before series has never been a huge box office magnet, with Before Sunrise and Before Sunset barely scratching above $5 million in their entire runs. The series’ phenomenal critical success should easily make Before Midnight the highest grossing of the three. That is, when we in the less privileged corners of the country actually get to see it.
Honestly, I would have called this film a loser if it grossed over $300 million opening weekend. The fact that The Hangover: Part III didn’t even manage the opening gross of the first film says a lot about how egregiously bad Part II was and Part III appeared to be. Sure, the film will still scale $100 million, thus making back its budget and not being a true financial failure. Still, it’s poetic justice that this installment should not be remembered for long, if at all.
Box Office History
Last year’s Memorial Day weekend wasn’t quite as exciting as usual, certainly in comparison to this year. Two films entered release, one of which wasn’t exciting in the slightest. Horror attempt Chernobyl Diaries (too crude to call it a movie) fell flat in the #6 spot, not even scraping $10 million in four days. Alex and Phil discussed it at length in the Film Misery Podcast last year, and I feel it’s safe to say it was an apt surrogate for not having a Hangover film to hate in 2012. The weekend’s big opening came from Men in Black 3 (MIB 3 in its abbreviated title), which opened to nearly $70 million over the four-day frame and went on to $179 million to finish up its run. That does make it the least grossing of the franchise domestically, but overseas earnings put it above the first two films. That international bump sure can help, and both Justin and myself felt the film was actually pretty solid entertainment.
The weekend’s biggest news, meanwhile, was in limited release, where Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom opened to a colossal $130,749 per theater average at 4 venues. At the time I was confident Wes’ film would sweep the indie market over the summer (it did, ending at $45.5 million) and go on to a Best Picture nomination (it didn’t). Oscar dreams ended, it still ranked #7 on G Clark’s Top 10 of 2012 list and #2 on Alex’s list. Suffice it to say this year dominated over last, rising 62.7% from the 2012 frame.
4-Day Box Office Top 10 – May 24-27, 2013
Box Office Results via Box Office Mojo
1. Fast & Furious 6 (1st Weekend: $120 million)
2. The Hangover: Part III (1st Weekend: $51.2 million; Total: $63 million)
3. Star Trek Into Darkness (2nd Weekend: $47 million; Total: $155.7 million)
4. Epic (1st Weekend: $42.6 million)
5. Iron Man 3 (4th Weekend: $24.4 million; Total: $372.5 million)
6. The Great Gatsby (3rd Weekend: $17 million; Total: $117.8 million)
7. Mud (5th Weekend: $2.4 million; Total: $15 million)
8. The Croods (10th Weekend: $1.6 million; Total: $179.6 million)
9. 42 (7th Weekend: $1.6 million; Total: $91.4 million)
10. Oblivion (6th Weekend: $1.1 million; Total: $87.6 million)